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Just Talk About It: How to Have Spiritual Conversations

 

Why do we find it so hard to talk about spiritual things in our families?

Maybe you don’t have this problem, but I’ve often found that these conversations are best described as rigid, whereas conversations about other parts of life are free-flowing.

It’s the difference between a family meal around fine china vs. a meal using everyday dishes.  As soon as the fine china comes out, there are certain expectations and unspoken rules that accompany them.  Everybody’s slightly on edge and doesn’t want to be the one to break something.  Spiritual conversations can feel the same way.

Frankly, I think we make this way too hard and it’s actually a lot easier than we think.

(Explore the Fine China analogy further here:  http://www.parentingthoughts.com/2014/04/fine-china-vs-everyday-dishes/)

Awhile back, we lost a family member.  We gathered our kids in the kitchen to let them know – their first experience with death.  We carefully explained to them what happened and gave our best attempt to be honest and help them understand.  Their reaction – nothing!  A simple “ok!” and on to the next thing.

I’ll be honest, I thought they missed it. However, in the weeks and even months following, little conversations and comments began coming out.  In the car driving to school, during a conversation before bed – our kids would process that conversation over and over again.  They would make statements or ask questions that showed they were processing what they heard and making connections to God and hope and loss.

There was more going on than I realized that day in the kitchen.

JUST TALK ABOUT IT

It doesn’t have to be profound.  It doesn’t have to be something you don’t understand.  Just talk about it.  Spiritual conversations can be as natural as any other conversation.  If I’m honest, I think spiritually more than I talk spiritually.  Now I’m trying to say aloud what I’m already thinking. 

Try talking out loud about these things, you’re probably already thinking about:

A simple comment about God creating a beautiful sunset.
Saying a quick prayer out loud for someone that came up that could use some prayer.
Something you’ve learned about God recently.
Talk about someone in need of some love and brainstorm ways to show them love.  Then do it!
Confess where you’ve recently messed up and be thankful for God’s forgiveness and invitation to grow.

Here’s what might happen:

Nothing.

Most likely, this conversation will not be magical in the moment.  There might be zero reaction.  There might even be a move in the opposite direction.  Didn’t we just talk about loving others and you did that to your sister?

Don’t let that discourage you, because there is more going on than you think.  Keep talking about it.

Here’s what I’ve experienced – the more I talk about it, the more they talk about it.  The more they ask questions.  The more they take a shot at understanding God or applying his love to their world.

Again, it’s rarely in the moment.  It often comes when there is time to think – car rides, conversations before bed, family meals together.

QUICK PSA – If you are too distracted in car rides for conversation with your child, too busy for a family meal every now and then,  or too tired for conversations at bedtime, then make a change!  I would wager 75% or more of the spiritual conversations I’ve had with my kids have been in these venues. 

It takes some space and normalcy for this to happen in my experience.

DON’T BELIEVE THE EXCUSE

Many might protest, but I don’t have the faith of _______ (fill in the blank).  It doesn’t matter.  Talk about the faith you have or don’t have.  Talk about how you want to understand God better.  Talk about how you want to practice loving others better in your life.  Talk about whatever faith you have.

If you are truly willing to share the faith you have…if you are willing to engage the spiritual things of life, at whatever level you can, then you will be giving your kids a front row seat to seeing someone engage God with their life.

They get a front row seat to God’s grace and activity in someone’s life!  How great is that?!?!  I promise you this is better than trying to sound smarter than you are or sharing what you think you’re supposed to with zero authenticity attached to it.

Keep it simple – it doesn’t matter if you’re a spiritual giant or not, just talk about it.

As you do, my guess is that there will be plenty of evidence that they are engaging as well and before you know it, spiritual conversations won’t be rigid or heavy, but free-flowing and as natural as any other conversation in your home.

Some of my favorite conversations with my kids have come months later as they’ve been connecting the dots in their head all along, because I simply had the courage to talk about it.  I hope the same for you.

Help Them Take the Next Step

As parents, we are the spiritual leaders of our children.

If I’m being honest, I’ve never been comfortable with the phrase, spiritual leader.  Not because I don’t believe it.  I actually think it’s 100% accurate.  I haven’t been comfortable with it, because it feels like a measuring stick or a standard that I most likely fall short of attaining.

Or maybe it’s the words themselves.  Spiritual.  Leader.
Do I meet the qualifications for these words?  Do “spiritual leaders” have flaws, because it doesn’t really sound that way.

We often avoid the role of spiritual leader because we think it means we can only listen to worship music with our kids or have to pray all the time or…fill in the blank.

If you feel this way, I get it.

But like it or not, we are the spiritual leaders of our children and I don’t think it’s as hard as we make it out to be.  You don’t have to have a lot of biblical knowledge or be like your pastor to be qualified for this job.  You are qualified as you are.  You don’t have to be trained in how to do this, you just have to help them take the next step.

HELP THEM TAKE THE NEXT STEP

I love the way Reggie Joiner puts it:

“Here’s a definition that can put us all at ease for just a second.  What if we redefine spiritual leadership?  What if spiritual leadership is simply helping your child take a positive step in their relationship with God.”

This means it’s not about knowing everything you need to know about spiritual life now, you just need to know one thing that helps them move in the right direction.

You may not know everything, but I bet you know one thing!  And with that one thing, you can have a positive spiritual impact!

YOU ALREADY KNOW HOW TO DO THIS

You do this everyday – many, many times a day – in other areas of life.  You help your kids take a positive step in education by helping them with their homework…or in being healthy by limiting their sugar intake…or in daily life by teaching them to tie their shoes…or in personal hygiene by reminding them to put on deodorant…you help them in athletics by spending time practicing with them.  The same thing applies to their spiritual life engage them and help them move in a positive direction.

Here’s what I’ve learned recently  – small investments over time are more powerful than I think.  But it’s not always magical in the moment.  It take a bit of patience.  But I’ve found that if I will just engage in their spiritual life in a simple way, it will often lead to many other opportunities to engage them spiritually down the road.  Here’s a few examples:

  • For awhile I decided to point out sunrises or clouds or trees, etc and say something like “isn’t it crazy God thought to create all these cool things!”  Easy stuff that anybody can do.  Again, nothing happens in the moment, but several weeks later I get this question – “You know how you said God created all these things (literally weeks later), well who created God?”
    • (NOTE:  This may be a scary question for you, but I don’t know that the answer matters as much as an openness to talk about it.  It’s the conversation that matters.  You could simply respond with, “that’s a really interesting question, what do you think?” or “I have no idea, but we can explore it together later, would you want to do that?”  I opted for the answer a question with a question in this particular moment.)
  • When a  family member passed away, we gathered our kids in the kitchen to let them know.  We were prepared for big emotions and the need to explain that heaven is a special place and we are going to be ok.  Honestly, they took it in stride and showed no emotion in that conversation.  We were shocked and a bit surprised, but shared with them and moved on.  Then weeks later, as we are driving a question about heaven.  Two months later, as we are going to bed a reference to  that family member enjoying heaven.  Nothing in the moment, but the initial conversation led to many other moments of spiritual conversations.
  • Saying prayers every night before bed – simple, not fancy (sometimes even in the middle of a lot of frustration about the bedtime routine), prayers.  Most nights the kids are silly or robotic in what we’ve taught them to say, but every now and then they pray something that hits you in the gut.  They get it, not because we explained it, but because we showed up and prayed each night.  We helped them take the next step by modeling it over weeks and years and then it becomes beautiful.

So, how can you help your child take the next positive step in their relationship with God this week?  It doesn’t have to weighty or heavy or cerebral – in fact, it’s better if it’s not!

Maybe it’s practicing praying before meals…or simply making it to church this week…or pointing out a great sunset and thanking God for his creation…or putting a note in their lunchbox reminding them they are loved by God and by you.

Whatever it is, you can be the spiritual leader this week by helping them take the next step.  Don’t make it harder than it needs to be.

 

I’m thankful for this podcast in regards to this idea – check it out –

 

 

Don’t Forget to Talk About It

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“A crucial link exists between your ability to parent and your personal growth”  –Reggie Joiner

“Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting ”   –Brene Brown

Maybe you relate to this story I read recently about a dad who was proud of his diligence in growing spiritually:

During the process of reading each day, I was reminded of a conversation I had with my kids. One evening I casually mentioned I had been studying the Bible. Both my kids burst into laughter. That was not the reaction I was expecting. I asked them why they were laughing and they said:

“You don’t study the Bible! Mom studies the Bible.”

If you’d like to ship my “Christian dad of the year trophy” to me, there’s a mailing address on my site.

YOU GET WHAT YOU ARE

Christian Smith, who conducted extensive research around the faith of young people, said at parenting panel – “When it comes to our kid’s faith, parents get what they are.”

Of course there are exceptions to this rule, but the basic idea is this:  How you practice/share/display your faith as a parent matters.  You are the most important influence in their life and in regards to their faith.

As a youth pastor, I’m convinced one of the greatest needs a student has in regards to faith is to see adults with living, active faith.  Think about it this way – if they don’t see it, they can infer that faith doesn’t matter when it comes to adult life (making a living, engaging the world, raising a family, enjoying life).  Here’s a scary question – “Hey kids, based on the way I live and what I talk about, what do you think the most important things in life are.”  (I’m guessing mine would say something about food or college football)

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER

How do you understand your role in your child’s spiritual formation?
How do you understand the church’s role in your child’s spiritual formation?
How do you talk about your faith with your children?

Kara Powell, another one who has done some great research on the faith of young people, shared how her research – and namely realizing the role parents play in the spiritual formation of their kids – changed the way she talked about her faith with her kids.

Before the research, she would leverage church to try and have a conversation with her kids in the car on the way home from service or an activity.  “What did you learn today?” or “How was youth group?”, which depending on their mood or a hundred other variables, only went so far.  She realized she never shared her own faith in a personal way, but was constantly trying to pry it out of her kids.

When it came down to it, she was just interviewing her kids and never opening up herself.

After the research, she knew she need to talk on a personal level.  If a kid interrupted her reading her Bible, instead of just thinking “how great is it they see me doing this” she would instead invite them over saying, “hey check out what I’m reading in John right now” or “can I show you this page in my prayer journal where I’m praying for you.”  She knew she had to start verbally sharing her faith and not just hoping they put it all together.

She also decided to change the nature of the dinner conversation.  She added questions like “What mistakes have you made recently?” to allow her and her husband to share their failings and invite the kids to do the same.  She also added, “How did you see God working today?” to create some space for a faith conversation around dinner.

Was it always magical? – nope!

Were their God sightings theologically correct or even spiritually significant- not always!

But they were talking about it.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A BETTER CHRISTIAN

Here’s what you need to understand.  You don’t have to share the perfect faith with them.  You don’t have to have it all together or have the answers.  You don’t have to be more like that really great Christian parent you know or try to share the “better” faith you think they have.

You just have to share the faith you have.

That’s it.

It’s not about what you know.  It’s about giving kids a front row seat to God’s activity in someone’s life.  You can be a total mess, but if you are willing to engage, then your kids will see that engagement and not the mess.  If you are willing to experience God’s grace and share the spirituality you have, then your kids will have a front row seat to how God’s grace moves in someone’s life.

Your experience of faith matters in the faith of your child.  How will they know that experience if you don’t honestly share it with them?!

As you go about the rest of your week — Don’t forget to talk about it.

 

To Subscribe to the posts – see the sidebar or bottom of this page!
To read more about making your faith personal, check out this post – Make It Personal
To read more about how you already have what it takes as a parent – I Have Nothing To Wear

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